The first fossilised remains of a Neanderthal have been discovered in the Netherlands. The skull fragment, with the characteristically thick Neanderthal eyebrow ridges, was found on the coast of Zeeland but originally came from the North Sea floor.
The fossil, which is more than 40,000 years old, was found a few years ago by an amateur palaeontologist among debris recovered from the bottom of the sea by a shell-fishing dredger. The material, mostly sand and shells, was dredged from the Middeldiep, about some 15 kilometres off the coast of Zeeland province.
An international scientific team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, along with scientists from the University of Leiden, studied the fossil extensively. Comparison with other Neanderthal skulls revealed that the fragment belong to a young man whose diet mainly consisted of meat, which is very characteristic of Neanderthals.
The researchers, who named the young Zeelander Krijn, also discovered a small cavity in the bone fragment that was caused by a benign tumour. Krijn was probably around 20 years old when he died.
Science and Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk presented the unique discovery at the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in Leiden on Monday. The Neanderthal fossil is on public display as of Tuesday 16 June.
The RMO called the fossil, "an enormous gain for Dutch national heritage," and "a milestone for Dutch archaeology and palaeontology."
1. Neanderthal fossil. National Museum of antiquities. Photo: Erik de Goederen
2, 3. A high resolution CT scan of the skull of a Neanderthal from La Chapelle-aux-Saints in France with the skull fragment from the Zeeuwse Banken/Middeldiep “pasted in” and its mirror image, also mounted in the skull. The skull fragment is 100,000 to 40,000 years old and is the first fossil of a Neanderthal from the Netherlands. Photo: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (D).